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Sleep Trumps All

August 12, 2012 Fear, Fitness, Fun No Comments

Ironman training is over. We have reached the taper. I made it! Well, I made it to the end of the training period anyway…

I signed up for an Ironman knowing what it would take to train for it and compete to my satisfaction. All of those realizations — and fears — are coming true right now. It’s hard. It requires commitment. I have a training plan and I follow it pretty much to the letter. I’ve dropped a swim workout here and a strength workout there, but I’m 98% compliant.

Here are the things I’ve learned as I move into the final couple of weeks before competing:

The human body is an amazing machine. I ask my body to do really hard things and it does them, even when I don’t want to or think I’m too tired. I have watched and felt my body become stronger and more efficient. While I have not lost or gained any weight along the way, my body does look and feel different. I trust it.

The human mind is stronger than any body will ever be. It will make or break you, so learn to be friends with it. If you tell it nice things, it will respond in kind. “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.” <– Henry Ford was a smart man.

High-end gear is a nice-to-have. The will to do it and belief that you can do it is a must-have. That said, treat whatever gear you have with respect. Know how to change a flat. Clean your chain every now and again. Wash the spilled sports drink off your bike frame and don’t leave your Garmin out in the rain just because it’s waterproof.

Don’t underestimate your support system. Support comes in a lot of forms: a team you train with, your at-home people, friends and coworkers, online buddies, and yourself (in the form of positive self-talk). Figure out who is supportive of you and be up-front with them about what you need. Some days you’ll need a cheerleader. Other days, you will need someone who will listen to you bitch. You’ll always need people who believe in you and, as crazy as this whole thing is, don’t insist on reminding you of that every time you see them.

Few things are more sacred than a solid 8 hours of sleep, more if you can get it. Don’t skimp on your sleep.

The work has been done. Doing any more at this point is counter-productive. I have to believe in my training and believe in myself. Thanks to everyone who has believed in me along the way!

Here we go!

 

It’s All Relative

August 9, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I can run 20 miles. Yeah, that number kind of shocks me, too. I went out to Sawyer Camp Trail two weeks ago for a long run and let my mind wander as my feet plodded forward. I purposely don’t run with music; it’s a good chance to stay in tune with what my body is telling me. For these long runs, I set my Garmin to a screen that only shows my heart rate and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know that’s how it will be at Ironman, so I’m not getting attached to a pace or a time or anything other than how I feel. “Active meditation,” if you will.

As I got to the 2.5 mile marker, I looked at it and remembered it used to be a milestone for me. It was halfway to five miles. FIVE WHOLE MILES. That *used* to be a long run for me! I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after running five miles. How hard it was, how good it felt to have done it. And I remember feeling that way after every milestone after that — 6 miles, 7 miles … double digits!

In the scheme of 20 miles, 2.5 is nothing at this stage of the Ironman training game. The stiffness has been worked out and yet things don’t really hurt yet. I don’t need food. It’s long division if I’m doing fractions in my head (“I’m 1/8th of the way done. Just do that same thing 7 more times and it’s over.”). On the one hand, it’s hardly worth noticing. On the other, it is a badge of honor for every mile I have put in since then. For every time I have passed that 2.5 mile marker and kept going.

Further Proof

This relativity has been a fun and interesting thing to contemplate during my training because it’s all relative. Sure, I can swim a couple of miles at one time and ride 100 miles and run 20… But that’s all at a pace meant for long distance.

This past weekend, we had to do a “Tempo Brick” that consisted of a 30 minute run at 5K pace (fast), a 45 minute bike ride at lactate threshold (hard), and finish with a 20 minute run at aerobic threshold (less hard). Considering the prior weekends’ workout plans, this one looked easy! In fact, it looked so easy I didn’t take it seriously. Big mistake.

Oh, I did the workout to the letter. I pushed as hard as I could with the idea that “I can do anything for 30/45/20 minutes.” That statement is true: I can and I did. But it hurt worse than a lot of my long workouts have hurt. I thought that all my sprint interval workouts would make me invincible for short distance events. I know now that that isn’t what they were designed to do. They were designed to make my body work more efficiently over long distances. I stand, quite winded, corrected.

This was a very good and effective training day mentally and physically. I absolutely respect the short workouts more than I did before. Shorter distance doesn’t mean less hard.

Everything is relative.

Did/Did Not

July 21, 2012 Fear, Fitness 2 Comments

Things I did today:

Swam 1.7 miles in open water.
Biked 80.5 hilly miles.
Ran/walked 7.15 miles.
Consumed 200 ounces of fluid.
Lost 6.4 pounds in 9 hours.
Cried.
Revised my estimated finish time at Ironman Canada.

Things I did not do today:

Pee.
Complete the additional 6 miles that were scheduled.
Puke (though it has been touch-and-go several times even since I got home).
Have fun.

The Elusive Podium

June 4, 2012 Fitness, Fun No Comments

Maybe The Elusive F-Spot is actually the P-Spot. THE PODIUM. Because I have come close to making it a few times now, yet it always eludes me.

*sigh*

It’s a good problem to have, I guess.  Making it into the top 5 athletes, even at a small(er) event, takes a little effort… So you can imagine that I was thrilled we screwed around long enough after the race to check the results as they were being released. I couldn’t find my name anywhere, until I looked at the Age Group Winners page and saw my name in the #4 slot. Yippeeeeee!!!

I didn’t even know what my final time was, so it was a real shock when it said 2:41. But let me back up…

PRE-RACE
I mentioned in my race goals that we were going to head to the race site and camp. We ended up not doing that. I got myself ready, but Greg couldn’t get himself organized and make it worth it to be down there. We went to bed early with the van packed and a very clear plan of what needed to happen on Sunday morning. The alarm went off at 5:17 and we were on the road by 5:30. I am certain this is a new record for us. We arrived at Uvas Reservoir at 6:40; our races started at 8:07 and 8:15.

We opted to do packet pick-up the morning of the race and that was the right call (rather than wasting more than an hour driving to Sunnyvale on Saturday afternoon). It was a small enough event that it was easy to get parking and do all of the body/equipment marking in enough time. The transition area was first come, first served and we found spots close to each other as we applied Body Glide and sunscreen before putting our wetsuits on.

As we were making our final preparations to head to the swim start, Greg realized that he had FORGOTTEN HIS GOGGLES! So, he hopped on his bike and rode the ~1/2 mile up the road to where the van was parked and made it back in plenty of time… But that’s kind of a panicky moment (especially when you wonder what else you’ve forgotten that you won’t realize until it’s too late).

SWIM
The water was warm (69* F) and calm. It was an in-water start and we swam from one entry point out to a buoy on the far side and then back to the boat ramp on the other side of the land mass. The land mass was the transition area. Let me assist with a visual of this…

The swim was fine. It was green murky water, but that doesn’t bother me and there were no panicky moments. I easily found an open “lane” and just kept swimming. I swim with my Garmin tucked into my swim cap and it works flawlessly. I have the device set to beep at me after 10 minutes so that I have some idea of how things are going. I am not very good at gauging my effort level/time/pace while I’m swimming, so I really become conditioned to hearing that beep to have an idea of how far I’ve gone. When I made it all the way out to the far buoy, I was thinking that I was either swimming like a professional or I had mistakenly hit the Lap button on my Garmin instead of the Start button.

When the beeping still didn’t happen, I knew I wasn’t tracking my data. Which is bad. I’m kind of addicted to the data. I knew I was swimming in a very straight line and sighting the buoys well. If I was going fast at all, this could be a really great swim for me. I had no way of knowing… I did know that I was passing men who had started 3 groups (12 minutes) in front of me, which is always a good sign. As predicted, I stood on the boat ramp and pulled my Garmin out of my swim cap to see it flashing all 00:00:00 at me. Dammit!

Official time: 28:43. Not my best, but not my worst. I must need to work harder in the water. As straight as I was going and not being winded, I’m kinda disappointed that this wasn’t better.

T1
I had a pretty quick transition at 2:09, considering I got to my bike and the athletes (ahem, MEN) who were on either side of me had knocked my helmet and sunglasses off my handlebars and I had to search around for them in the rush. No worries. Transition areas are always tight quarters.

BIKE
It was a nice bike ride with rolling terrain, not much car traffic, and a couple of short but decent climbs. The descents on these climbs were pretty technical and I was glad to not be around other cyclists for either of them. Greg said he saw a rider down (crashed) on one of them, and I saw a guy running who had visibly crashed on his bike.

Even though I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, I kept to my nutrition/hydration plan according to schedule. I drank ~1.5 bottles and ate an almond butter-filled date at 30 minutes and 60 minutes on the bike. I also kept my heart rate within range and didn’t go balls-out, even though there was the opportunity to do so on many of the flats. Even so, my average pace was good and I knew I’d finish ahead of where I thought I would. My average speed was 18.5 mph and I finished in 1:18. Even though I didn’t know my swim time, I knew I had bought myself a little time on finishing the bike early and went into the run with confidence.

T2
Nothing to report here. It was pretty quick in and out — 1:26.

RUN
The bike course went out on the same trajectory as the run course, so I was paying attention to the terrain. There were a couple of rollers near the turnaround, but I knew it would be a cinch compared to Wildflower. I had done calculations in my head to finish under 3 hours with a 9:00 minute/mile pace on the run. Again, working to fulfill my race plan, I set my Garmin to ONLY show me my heart rate and I did not worry about pace/speed/distance until the turnaround. When I got there and clicked over to the other screen, I was pleasantly surprised to see my average pace was 8:16. I wasn’t fatigued! I still had fire in my legs! In all of the races I’ve done, I have NEVER felt like that. Hooray for a plan!

I did pick up my pace on the return 5K, but again kept my Garmin set to my HR only and kept it above lactate threshold without going crazy. A gal that had passed me within 500 yards of starting the run was coming into view and I knew I’d pass her. I got to the 5-mile marker and picked it up a little more. I couldn’t believe I still had a “sprint” in me! I saw Greg with Miles about a half mile out, just as I passed that gal. I finished strong and felt good in 50:29 (8:07 pace), though I still had no idea what my overall time was.

POST-RACE
This race was pretty awesome in that the post-race food included Pizza My Heart along with fruit that was fresh-picked just up the road from the race site. It was really low-key and there were lots of dogs and kids around, everyone enjoying the beautiful weather. We took Miles down to the swim start to play around in the water. He loves swimming and we make it a fun game of racing him to the ball or stick that the other person has thrown. He seems to understand the idea of racing and that’s kinda fun, too…

We decided to pack it up after one last slice of pizza and I said I wanted to stop by the Results table to see how my swim had gone and what my final time was. Again, I was delighted to see that I was #4 in my age group! Unfortunately, the podium only has three spots so I was out of a bottle of wine and some other winner goodies again this time. And when we got home, my position had slipped to #5. I don’t know how or why, but I guess I’m still glad to be in the top 5 (out of 25 participants). It does seem somewhat fishy that the winner in my age group finished a 25-mile ride in 53 minutes (faster than the fastest man and overall winner) and her T2 time was 0:16… But whatever.

Greg came in 6th out of 47 participants with an overall time of 2:23.

We then trekked out to the coast and made a leisurely trip home, stopping at our favorite watering holes for a drink and a snack. It was a great afternoon! At 60 pounds, Miles still believes he’s a lap dog and chooses to nap on my lap. Sweet boy!

And it turns out I was right — racing an Olympic distance event is just so doable. It was a lot of fun and a feeling of accomplishment all at the same time.

Epic Training Weekend

May 27, 2012 Fitness No Comments

Greg and I have adopted a new training plan to take us to Ironman and it’s hard. Not that I expected Ironman training to be anything less than that, but weekends are really a bitch. Here’s what the schedule dictated for this weekend:

Saturday: 50-70 minute open water swim (steady, yet relaxed) + 15-17 mile run (on rolling terrain)
Sunday: 90-100 mile bike (on rolling terrain) + 20 minute run (at lactate threshold)

Yeah… That’s a lot of time and a lot of miles. I’m just going to come out and own up to something right now: my right knee is giving me trouble. A lot of it. I’ve been denying it, pretending it’s no big deal, believing that daily foam roller sessions and ice would fix it. All of those things are definitely improving how I feel in a lot of areas, but not my knee. I hesitate to say I’m concerned, so let me just say that I’m quite pensive about it. (<— see how I did that?)

For Saturday’s workout, I went out and ran 15 miles. I’m in uncharted territory in terms of long distance running. Prior to Ironman training, the farthest I’d ever run was 13.3 miles (the Big Sur Half Marathon runs over — WHICH SUCKS IF YOU ARE LIVING AND DYING BY YOUR GARMIN AND THAT 0.2 MILES). So last Friday I ran 14 miles and it went very well. Admittedly, it was 14 flat miles with not a lot of wind…but it was just the mental boost I needed to believe I could run longer than a half marathon.

** For the record, I followed that 14 mile run with a mock sprint tri (.5 + 13 + 4) on Saturday and followed that with a 40-mile ride on Sunday. To reiterate, weekends are no joke on this training plan. **

The 15 mile run was on hilly trails and I was pretty unhappy during most of it, but I ran it all and finished feeling pretty good. My knee let me know about it. Despite the ice and foam roller treatment, it was very unhappy. Like, take-a-normal-step-in-normal-everyday-activity unhappiness. At this point (and cold weather), I could not talk myself into an hour-long open water swim and I couldn’t stomach that many laps on a 25-yard pool. So I compromised with myself to turn Monday’s rest day into a swim day. I iced that knee on/off every 20 minutes all afternoon and evening. I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom and winced as I put weight on it.

*sigh*

Greg and I made grand plans to ride the Highway 1 coastline this morning. The forecast was for sunny skies, but only a high of 53. I’ll take the sunshine! We had everything loaded in the van and were ready to go by 9 AM. It was spitting rain as we drove over the pass and into Half Moon Bay. It was cold. It was cloudy. Boooooo.

Token self-portrait

We set out and my mood was surprisingly good. I had all the positive vibes going, I was solving my own problems and a bunch of the world’s problems in my head the whole time. My average speed was very good and I was really happy about my commitment to being there. We were going for 80 miles at the minimum to probably 90 at the outside. We talked it over last night and the farthest either of us has gone is ~60 in the past 8 months, so we had no business doing a full century ride with so much elevation gain.

Greg dropped me pretty quickly (fine by me), though I expected to see him along the way. I passed through Davenport and made it to the 40-mile mark to turn around, knowing the return trip would be longer. What I did not expect was the IN-YOUR-FACE wind on the way back. We’ve had winds gusting up to 45 mph this week, but those were not forecasted for today. Today’s winds were supposed to be 13 mph. Forecasting fail. Also, no-fucking-wonder I had been going so fast on the way down!

There was nothing to do but keep pedaling, even as futile as it felt (and was). I looked down a few times and saw that I was going 12 mph on a flat road. Sooooo demoralizing! My 19 mph average speed quickly dropped… I got to Pescadero and texted Greg to say that I would like him to come pick me up. Seriously. I could make it to San Gregorio (about 5 miles away), but didn’t want to have to climb even more hills to make it back to the van.

 

He called when he finished (about 20 minutes later) to see if I was serious about coming to get me. I said that I was, but asked if he had finished the run. He had not. I really wanted to make it 80 miles, so told him to finish the run and then call me. I was at 73.30 miles with several hills to go. My hyper-competitiveness then kicked in, driving me to finish 6.7 miles in the just-over-20 minutes it would take him to run and call me. I would accept the ride, but only if I had finished 80 miles.

I pushed those hills and knew I’d hit 80 miles if he called me rightthissecond. WHICH I WANTED HIM TO DO. I didn’t want to ride any farther. I wanted to be done. Tears were stinging my eyes — I was out of food and water, my shoulders were burning, my legs were done.  But he didn’t call, and I knew I’d have to finish.

I pulled up at just over 84 miles + 4628 feet of climbing. He’d taken Miles on his run, and indulged him with a little romp on the beach. I certainly can’t fault him for that. And honestly, I’m glad that I dug deep and finished on my own. It was going to require a lot of effort to swallow that pill of being picked up just 4 [downhill] miles from the finish…

I had no business doing a 20-minute run on this knee, so I didn’t go. I don’t even feel guilty! I got out of my cold, wet clothes and had a little spit bath with baby wipes before putting on real clothes, new sunscreen, and a little mascara + lip gloss. We were heading to the brewery for dinner! I had some chocolate milk and V8 in the car, plus one glass of wine while we watched Miles make friends with everyone else around. My stomach did threaten a revolt as we waited for a table, but I had two glasses of soda water and things settled down.

I’m actually looking forward to stretching things out on the swim tomorrow (+ a strength workout), as long as the sunny+69* forecast holds…

What did you do this holiday weekend? 

Wildflower 2012 Race Recap

May 16, 2012 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

I’m kinda over this race, so I’m not going to totally belabor it. I probably should, for no other reason than to save future unknowing fools who sign up for the Long Course thinking it “won’t be that bad” or that “everyone exaggerates how hard it is” or that it will be “good training.”

This race is hard. It is technically a Half Ironman distance (1.2 swim + 56 bike + 13.1 run), but the notoriety of its difficulty has kicked it up a notch in triathlon circles to “3/4 Ironman” status. I really hope that’s true, because I think I can do 1/4 more work than I did at Wildflower. Doing twice as much will be a real test of everything I am.

The bottom line is that I executed all of my race goals. I guess I can’t ask for more than that, right?

PRE-RACE
It’s a camping event, so no one really plans to be all that well-rested the night before. We had the luxury of sleeping in the van, so that helped tremendously. Greg’s pre-race plan is to make a smoothie the night before and set an alarm to wake him so he can drink it at 4 AM. It was really awesome that his alarm woke up me, the dog, and everyone else in our surrounding area… It took me awhile to go back to sleep, so I laid there and actually visualized my race. In detail. It sounds a little hokey, but I think it was extremely helpful. I would have forgotten two things for my transitions had I not done this! It also helped calm me to visualize myself crossing the finish line.

We got up with the sun around 6 AM and did all the pre-race things. Eating, drinking, bathrooming, making jokes, and finally collecting our things to head to the transition area.

I had my toes done to match my race kit.

Greg and Kidder’s wave started 25 minutes before mine, so I saw them off and  got myself mentally prepared to do this thing. I started 1:20 after the first wave of the day at 9:20 AM. While it’s nice being able to have a somewhat leisurely morning, the down side is being out on the run course in the heat of the day.

SWIM
There were only 75 women in my wave, so this “mass start” wasn’t that brutal. I’m a pretty good swimmer, as it turns out, and I’ve learned that it’s better to be right in the front of the pack going into the water. We’re allowed to swim around for a couple of minutes before our wave starts (after the previous wave) and I’ll tell ya, the water right there is pretty warm with all the athletes peeing one last time before the race starts. My biggest concern was getting my goggles in a spot where they weren’t going to leak or fog over.

The horn went off and we all ran into the water. It’s chaotic, but I’m not a panicky swimmer in this environment so it’s “fine.” My biggest problem was that my goggles were leaking and fogging over. I could not sight the first buoy at all and following the crowd is not always a good thing. I felt like I was way too far to the left, but got my goggles figured out and recovered from that. As is usually the case, it’s hard to get into a rhythm until that first buoy. Things tend to spread out from there and get easier, and that was the case this time.

I knew the lake had been choppy and full of debris (seaweed and sticks) at last year’s Long Course, but that was not the case this year. The water was really quite smooth and clear. Well, not “clear.” This is what you saw when you put your face in the water:

 

It was a good swim for me. I wasn’t killing myself out there, planning for a 35-40 minute swim. I got out of the pack of women in my age group and was passing people from three waves ahead of me, so I knew I wasn’t faltering too much. My Garmin was in my swim cap, so I didn’t have a way of knowing my time/pace. That was fine – I was going by feel anyway. A couple of times throughout, I thought to myself, “This is going to be the easiest part of your day, so enjoy it.” That helped to keep things in perspective and live in the moment. Not to mention fulfilling my goal of having fun!

I got out of the water and got my Garmin out of my cap as I stepped on the timing mat. 33:02. WOO HOO!

T1
I was not pushing myself during my transitions. During an Olympic distance race, fast transitions can make or break your race. This wasn’t an A race, it’s a huge transition area, and I know I’m not going to be Speedy Gonzalez in transition at Ironman. I made putting on sunscreen a priority, and I’m glad I did!! T1 time = 4:44

BIKE
My goal for the bike was to drink enough water and eat at the appropriate times to finish the race without GI issues, and to leave enough in my legs to have a decent run. I had gotten a professional bike fit the week prior and had done a long and hilly ride to test out the adjustments. I felt very comfortable going into the ride and had a solid plan worked out.

Everyone talks about the long hill that starts around Mile 40 of the ride — Nasty Grade. What no one talks about is the hill that happens around Mile 2. It may be even more difficult than Lynch Hill (that the Olympic distance athletes have to climb). I couldn’t believe how many people I saw walking it!

I had to pee starting around Mile 26. I have never even needed to pee on the bike, so this was a good thing. I knew I was drinking enough to stay hydrated! I tried to pee for over 20 miles and could not relax enough to do it. I can’t let my sphincter release while pedaling, obviously. I was close a couple of times, but no go. So disappointing! I even picked up an extra water bottle at the aid station for “clean-up.”

I had a good bike ride. I executed my hydration and nutrition plan, I paced myself and didn’t give in to hammering unnecessarily. I drank 20 ounces of water every hour and ate an almond butter-filled date every hour.

I was passing people in Greg’s age group — they started 25 minutes ahead of me (and they’re men)!! Nasty Grade wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be, but I will admit that the last 10 miles of the ride are the hardest. As I was descending Nasty Grade, I saw the medical helicopter landing just up ahead. Someone else was not having a good race… Greg said that he saw the athlete still laying on the ground when he passed by. I don’t know what happened or what became that guy.

I finished the bike in 3:14. Again, this exceeded my time expectations. I didn’t feel totally spent, I knew I wasn’t dehydrated (as is usually the case), and thought I was in pretty good shape to tackle the run.

T2
My 4:32 time in transition is extremely slow. I’m not sure why. I don’t really care.

RUN
So this is obviously where things fall apart, right? Good swim. Good bike. And for the first few miles, things were working out according to plan on the run.

Mile 2 - Still Having Fun

I had to stop to pee right out of the transition area, but that was expected. The potty stop took 56 seconds. I adopted a Run 3 Minutes/Walk 30 Seconds plan starting around Mile 2.5 — which is right about when the hills started to become a problem. This was a good solution and was working well. When I was running, I was running reasonably fast. The walk breaks brought my heart rate down and gave my legs a break.

And then somewhere around Mile 4, this happens:

That hill is no joke. Add in that it’s 2 PM on an 81-degree day and it’s like living in Hell. I don’t think there was a single person running that hill while I was on it. I’m actually not sure which is more demoralizing: that EVERYONE is walking it, or if you see some crazy-ass superstar running it (especially if she’s in your age group). There was chatting amongst us, mostly commiseration. It helped pass the time. And then, when you get to the top and start running again, you think that everything is going to be okay — until you have to climb the next super steep, albeit short, hill.

The whole thing fell apart for me right there. FIVE MILES IN. It’s hard to even want to start running again on the relatively flat parts. I looked at my splits and knew I could finish within my goal time of 6:30 even if I walked most of it. But I didn’t want to be out there that long; I wanted to finish as fast as possible. I started running again and found a couple of people who were going at a pace I could handle. My biggest problem on the run is not being able to pace myself. When I’m running, I’m running fast. Too fast. So I stayed with them awhile, but let them drop me as I walked through an aid station and stretched my right glute.

From then on, my MO was basically to walk all hills and run the downhills and flats. There was a lot of self-talk, and most of it was reasonably positive. I have never been more certain about finishing Ironman than I was on that race course. I was in a similar situation to where I had been in past races (dying on the run), but in this case it wasn’t because I had hammered too hard on the bike or because I was dehydrated.

It’s because this run is a Bitch. With a capital-fucking-B.

I vowed to remember how miserable this 2 hours of my life was and to NEVER EVER sign up for it again (unless in a relay). I thought of Greg and Mike and wondered if they had suffered as much as I was suffering now. I remembered Greg saying last year that he would NEVER EVER do this race again, and how he had to eat those words and do it as a “training race” for Ironman.

There was a male college student around Mile 9 wearing nothing but a sombrero (the race was on Cinco de Mayo). He wanted to high-five me after slathering sunscreen all over his naked body. No thanks.

The later water stations offer Coke and it’s an effective tool for several reasons (fizziness, caffeine and sugar). I declined this time. Some nice college kids were offering beer. I thought about it, but declined. I WAS EXECUTING A RACE PLAN, DAMMIT!

And then, Mile 12. The top of the last hill, and where I knew I’d see my friends. I came trudging up that hill and threw them my water bottle mentioning briefly, “I want to die” as I passed them and started to run. From there, it’s 1 mile down a steep hill into the finisher’s chute. I have never been more thankful for gravity in all of my life.

I finished in 6:15:20. A full 15 minutes over where I thought I’d end up at “somewhere around 6.5 hours.” It wasn’t a fast run. It wasn’t a fun run. It has left a bad taste in my mouth for over 10 days now. But I also didn’t have any stomach issues during the run or after finishing. I didn’t have any chafing. AND I FINISHED.

I made it out of the post-race food fest after eating more than I’ve ever been able to stomach and hobbled down the stairs to the transition area to pack up.

I couldn’t get in touch with Greg (coverage is spotty at best in this remote area), but had planned ahead and brought my bathing suit to take a cold swim in the lake. That helped a little and then I entered the famed “4th Event” at Wildflower — trekking back up the hill to our campsite.

There, I enjoyed refreshing post-race beverages with my friends. It is always so fun to exchange stories with the other folks competing. Greg and Kidder did the Long Course. Martz and Joe did the Sprint Distance (<– they’re smart). The van provided the perfect lounge setting.

I took a week off to recover. I was asleep by 9 PM every night and slept in until at least 7 every morning — no 5:37 AM wake-up calls for early swims. I did do recovery runs on Monday and Thursday and a quick ride on Wednesday, just to keep things moving.

Now, we’re on to the Real Deal. I’m 3 days into Official Ironman Training and had to laugh when I looked ahead to this weekend’s training: Saturday – run 16-18 miles on rolling terrain + Sunday – ride 80-100 miles. Wheeeeeeee!

I’m a Triathlete??

January 29, 2012 Fitness 2 Comments

I’ve been at this triathlon thing for a few years now and I’ve come to learn a lot about myself.

This year, of course, will be the true test as I prepare for Ironman Canada in August. As January comes to an end, so does the first month of training. It was aggressive. I mean, we were swimming 2000+ yards three times a week during Week 1. Swim-Bike and Swim-Run bricks were introduced in Week 2. And today’s workout marked the first Bike-Run brick (33 miles + 2 miles).

Here are a few observations that run through my head as I plan my training, map my routes, actually do the workouts, hydrate and eat accordingly, and recover:

  1. I am not good at practicing proper nutrition when I train because I am more concerned about my weight than proper fuel. This needs to change, and fast.
  2. I prefer a loop to an out-and-back. I prefer a loop so much that I will re-route myself mid-ride (sometimes making it harder) just so that I don’t have to simply turn around and re-ride the same course backwards.
  3. I am pleasantly surprised that I have become a strong swimmer. Considering I couldn’t make it 25 yards without stopping to catch my breath at the other side when I started, I have come a long way. I owe it all to that swim clinic, and the subsequent time I’ve spent in the pool practicing what I learned.
  4. I am tired of men and their egos. A guy can very clearly be out for a leisurely stroll while I’m out for a serious training ride when I pass him. He will then go into heart attack mode to re-pass me, just to save a little face. Get over yourself.
  5. I’d be lost without my Garmin. (Not literally – ha!) I am addicted to the data and won’t train without it. As my friend Ryan says, “If I didn’t track it, it didn’t happen.”
  6. I need a professional bike fit in the worst way. I have owned my bike (a Specialized Roubaix Expert, purchased before I got into triathlon) for 4 years and have never been all that comfortable on it.  My shoulders pinch and my hands go numb at the wrist, among other things.
  7. After all this time, the Bike-Run bricks never get easier for me. Not even during a real race.
  8. My stomach doesn’t do well on the engineered food like gels and chews. I need to find REAL FOOD that offers quick sugar/energy to fill this void. Dates filled with peanut butter are great, but too messy.
  9. My typical hydration is a bottle of water and a bottle of FRS on the bike. I like to run with a bottle of Nuun and take plain water at the aid stations. This has been working well for me.
  10. I am not a snob, especially when it comes to my workout gear. Being unemployed for 2+ years contributed to this, and it also proved that I don’t need all the highest-tech gear to get my training hours/miles in. Time trumps gear.
  11. I don’t have a go-to recovery food. Sometimes I’ll have chocolate milk. Sometimes I’ll have a beer. Today, I had a slice of a kid’s birthday cake and a glass of cheap red wine. It did the job.
  12. Naming our dog has had the exact effect I hoped it would: a positive connotation with lots and lots of Miles.

Am I really a triathlete?? So many of the people whose stories I follow and carouse with are much more scientific about this whole thing. Every calorie is planned and accounted for. Every piece of gear has been chosen. Every training route is executed without question. And yet, this works for me. I don’t take it too seriously and still manage to come across the finish line in reasonably good spirits each time. To each her own!

What have you learned about yourself over time? And does anyone have a suggestion on what I can do about real food??

 

Not Ideal

January 8, 2012 Fitness, Friends 2 Comments

My friend Tina enjoys shopping at Nordstrom. I take that back. She loves shopping at Nordstrom. She is what one would refer to as a VERY GOOD CUSTOMER.

Tina was such a good customer in 2011, in fact, that she was invited to their “Winner’s Circle.” (I am pretty sure it isn’t called this. But what she was offered reminds me a lot of what the casinos in Las Vegas do for their VERY GOOD CUSTOMERS.)

Being part of the Winner’s Circle has its benefits. Among other things that I don’t even know about because I have spent less than $20 at Nordstrom in the past two [unemployed] years, she got a Spa Party where she and three friends could choose two custom spa treatments each, in addition to a cosmetics makeover and complimentary lunch at the Bistro Cafe.

She chose me to join her! What a treat!

Yesterday was a fabulous afternoon, to say the least. Lunch was decadent and full of laughter. And booze. We made our way to the spa just before our appointment times. I chose a hot stone massage and a facial. I’ve only had one facial in my whole life and someone else recommended that one to me, so I didn’t really know what I was ordering this time around.

I got changed into my robe and slippers and joined our other friends in the Foot Soak Area. A nice woman put a bamboo bowl under my feet and poured hot water with bath salts in, washing my sins stress away. I was then whisked away for my massage. It was blissful. I get a massage every month as part of my triathlon training/recovery. Those massages are not so much about relaxing as they are about hard work. Like, dig your elbow into the knots in my shoulder blades until I cry uncle. Hurts so good, right?

This massage was not like that. I purposely chose a massage that was not deep tissue, but long relaxing strokes with plenty of heat. It was perfect. I spent another minute in the Foot Soak Area before I was whisked to my facial. The nice esthetician got right to work, asking if I’d ever had a facial and what my current skin care regime is. Typical stuff. Then she begins to apply something wet to my face saying, “This is going to sting. On a scale from 1-10, let me know if the pain gets to be about a 6.”

What the hell did I sign up for?

As this is stinging the shit out of my face, she asks if I’ve ever had a chemical peel. Ah. That explains it. I picture Jack Nicholson falling into the vat of acid in Batman and wonder if I’ll come out of this tiny room as The Joker.

Admittedly, a bunch of girlfriends and I did a peel at home once, but I’m not sure if that counts. Too late now anyway. The 90 seconds of level-6-stinging is up. As she’s rubbing soothing stuff on my face she says, “Don’t go in the sun for a couple of weeks.”

This is not ideal. Ironman training has officially begun. I had already scheduled a 35-mile bike ride for Sunday and the weather forecast shows nothing but sunny skies all week. Just as I’m reassuring myself that I’ll make this a swim-centric week, she mentions, “And don’t go anywhere near chlorine. It’ll sting like hell.”

Also not ideal.

Finally, I gathered the courage to ask if my face is going to be red and scaly and peel off in sheets (as I’ve heard about). BY THE WAY, I HAVE A JOB INTERVIEW ON TUESDAY. Thankfully, this isn’t that kind of peel. So I’ve got that going for me.

I asked what I should do if I would find myself (ahem) in a situation where I have to (ahem) be in the sun. She said to slather on the sunscreen…otherwise I’ll get sun spots. This is probably one of the worst threats someone can make to a 37-year-old woman.

Alas, today was a gorgeous day and there was no way I was missing out on a ride with a good friend just because my face no longer has its outer most layer of epidermis. We shall ride!

About an hour before the ride, I applied my first so-thick-I-look-like-a-ghost layer of SPF 110 sunscreen (with zinc). That absorbed within a few minutes and I applied another round. I did this two more times before we left. We were out about 2 hours and I don’t think I did any permanent damage. My face looked a little red when I got back, but I think that was just from the wind and exertion. It looks and feels great now. I think I’ve dodged a bullet.

At least until tomorrow, when I’m prescribed to do an 18-mile ride. And there’s a swim scheduled for Tuesday. I guess we’ll see what hell stings like, right?

Friday Five

January 6, 2012 Fido, Fitness, Fun 1 Comment

1. We’ve had Miles for a week now. Only a week. Although it feels like way longer than that as I stand in the yard every morning at 4 AM, praising him in my high-pitched voice for a good potty!

He just feels like home and I kind of can’t believe I was patient enough with Greg to live without a puppy for five months.

Also, he loves my Fit Flop slippers as much as I do. I am sure this obsession will come to blows in the near future.

2. It’s been quiet on the fitness front lately. That isn’t because I’ve been slacking off; I’ve consistently worked out 6 days a week since my last race. But it’s boring stuff. The triathlon training has begun and will continue to ramp up and there will be more to talk about.

I made a Facebook page for my blog that I haven’t known what to do with. I’ve decided that I’m going to dedicate my that page to Ironman stuff — training, nutrition, rants, etc… Join me over there if you want to follow along. (PLEEEEEEASE!)

3. There’s no snow in Tahoe. I can’t tell you how much this pains me. My 2012 season pass is going unused with every un-winter-like day we have.

4. I bought for-real cowboy boots when I was in Kansas City for Christmas. Then my mom gave me money for them and they turned into a gift. Win!

Greg hates them. Win?

I continue to look for excuses to wear them. It’s not going that well. Not only do I rarely go out, I am not very good at dressing myself.

Also, I have big feet.

5. I just finished the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m not usually the “fantasy” type. And I haven’t fallen prey to the “young adult” genre (Edward and Bella can suck it as far as I’m concerned – ha!). But this gripped me and held me until the end of the series. I love when I hate to finish a good book.